Fencers upset 2 top-10 teamsA day removed from narrowly upsetting No. 4 Notre Dame 14-13, the Blue Devil men pulled off another upset of a top-10 team Sunday when they defeated No. 10 Stanford on the final day of the Northwestern Duals.
After losing to No. 8 Pennsylvania last weekend, Duke's men's team put an exclamation point on the end of its excellent weekend at the Northwestern Duals, storming to a 15-12 victory against the Cardinal to push its weekend record to 8-1. The women's team had similar success as they finished the weekend at 8-4.
"These two victories against Notre Dame and Stanford boosted the morale of the team," head coach Alex Beguinet said. "The great thing is that they both came from different places; against Notre Dame both épée and sabre won by tight margins, and foil was able to limit the damage done by Notre Dame's deep roster. With Stanford, we knew that we needed sabre to really step up and provide cover for the other weapons, and they went a perfect 9-0."
The win could be the big turning point for the Blue Devils as they hit the midway mark of their season. After opening the season with disappointing 2-3 and 1-3 outings by the men's and women's teams, respectively, at the Penn State Duals, both teams managed to generate success at the Philadelphia Invitational last weekend. The men's team, led by a combined 31-5 record from Charles Copti and Christopher Monti, stormed to a 5-1 record while the women's squad was able to finish 3-2.
The men's team was able to keep its hot streak alive as they took down two top 10 teams on back-to-back days in Chicago. Saturday's matchup against Notre Dame was a close matchup, as the men's epee and sabre both defeated the Fighting Irish 5-4 as the foil fought Notre Dame hard for a 5-4 loss, holding the Fighting Irish off enough to give the Blue Devils the narrow victory.
The following day, Duke continued to pile on the wins as the men's team defeated Stanford, San Diego, Cleveland State and Detroit Mercy. The 8-1 record signifies the improvements Duke has made, and a pair of victories against two top-ranked opponents could be enough to push the Blue Devils into the top 10.
But Duke knows it can not be satisfied with just the past two weekends. The upcoming weeks will test the true ability of the team as it will determine whether or not the team can maintain its success.
"Consistency is still the biggest issue with this group," Beguinet said. "There are moments of brilliance, but we want to see them perform a little steadier.
While the men have excelled against ranked opponents in the past two weeks, the women's team—which finished 8-4 this weekend—is still searching for a signature win, as they dropped their matchup against No. 7 Northwestern Saturday 19-8 and lost to No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 5 Ohio State during last weekend's tournament.
But Beguinet is confident the women will have success, especially after a 6-0 showing on Sunday, headlined by senior sabre Kodia Baye-Cigna's perfect 16-0 outing, pushing her weekend total to 21-13. Junior Sarah Collins led all the team with a 29-7 record in what was her first meet of the season.
"There's a reason those teams are ranked highly," Beguinet said. "There have been some close calls, but the group hasn't put a performance together where all three squads do enough to knock off a top school. We'll have an opportunity with Temple coming this weekend, so maybe a friendly crowd will be the catalyst they need to put them over the edge."
Moving forward, the Blue Devils will look to add on to their momentum as they host the annual Duke Home Meet next weekend. As the only meet to be played at home, Duke knows next weekend can be an excellent opportunity to take its place among the nation's elite while taking advantage of having the home crowd on its side.
"Now that the team is performing at the level they're capable of, we're excited to get some matches in front of a home crowd," Beguinet said.